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Hindi Cinema and the Cultural Metamorphosis of Indian Society: Comparing 'devdas' and 'dev D'

Essay by   •  August 4, 2011  •  Book/Movie Report  •  3,950 Words (16 Pages)  •  1,387 Views

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ABSTRACT

Hindi cinema is an important aspect of the Indian culture. It is largely believed that cinema is always a mirror of reality. My research is aimed at examining whether this is true. After tracing the evolution of Hindi cinema (popularly known as Bollywood), I have done a comparitive analysis of 'Devdas' (directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali) and 'Dev D' (directed by Anurag Kashyap) as both these movies are based on the 1917 novella 'Devdas' by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay. However, while 'Devdas' is set in the early twentieth century, 'Dev D' is set in the early twenty-first century. Since the process of re-imagination is largely based on the principles of inclusion-exclusion, I intend to see the changes incorporated by Kashyap in the narrative. The research methodology is largely descriptive rather than analytical with references from movie-reviews and blogs. I have also interviewed people who have seen both these movies and asked for their opinion.

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Culture has to do with the beliefs of the people, which may be tangible or intangible. The culture of a

group of people has several distinguishing characteristics; it is based on symbol, it is both shared

and learned, and it is usually socially inherited with far reaching consequences on the way and

manner of living of an individual. Culture also has to do with the way of life of the people.

The term 'culture' is derived from the Latin word 'cultura' that stems from the word 'colere' which means 'to cultivate'. According to Ralph Linton, 'the culture of a society is the way of life of its members; the collection of ideas and habits which they learn, share and transmit from generation to generation. Culture defines accepted ways of behaving for members of a particular society.

The term 'culture' is very complex to define. It includes both material things and symbols. According to Gramsci, the bourgeois make use of cultural mechanisms such as art, religion and education to gather consent of the mass of the population and rule over them. The state, itself, divides into political society and the cultural-ideological apparatus of civil society. Public culture is a component of this civil society. It is a space where meanings are constructed, distorted, and revived in a continuous process. Public culture includes cinema, advertisements, television, celebrity gossip in magazines and newspapers, autobiographies and biographies of public figures, city maps and guides. In public culture, private and state interests, low and high cultural media, and different classes and groups formulate, represent and debate what culture is, or should be.

The Indian film industry is the largest in the world. Bollywood is the informal term used to refer to the Hindi film industry. Indian cinema depicts the culture of our society. It is a reflection of the different trends, values, and life-styles that exist in the pluralistic society of India. It is, to a large extent, a medium, through which a society thrives on its values and ideologies. Hindi cinema often highlights the ethnic and traditional values of the Indian society, its rich cultural heritage, and its unity in diversity. We have seen the theme of 'unity and diversity' being explored in several movies across the years - Amar Akbar Anthony (1977), Pinjar (2003), Swades (2004) are some of them. There are several movies which serve the function of evoking feelings of patriotism among their audience. Shaheed (1948), Border (1997), Sarfarosh (1999), Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani (2001),Gadar: Ek Prem Katha (2001) are some popular movies that have tried stirring nationalistic sentiments. However, it is difficult to concretely say that such movies depict sentiments of all the people across all parts of India. Movies largely depict the mind-set of the dominant culture and do not cater to the belief-systems of all the masses.

According to Rajinder Dudrah, Bollywood is more popularly described in relation to, and against, the hegemony of Hollywood... The naming and popular usage of the Mumbai film industry as 'Bollywood' not only reveals on a literal level an obvious reworking of the appellation of the cinema of Hollywood, but, on a more significant level, that Bollywood is able to serve alternative cultural and social representations away from dominant white ethnocentric audio-visual possibilities.

It is true that several Bollywood movies have been re-makes of popular Hollywood movies. For example "Partner" is a remake of the Hollywood film "Hitch"; "Kuch to Hai" is a remake of the movie "I Know What You Did Last Summer", "Murder" is a remake of "Unfaithful", whereas "My Best Friend's Wedding" has also been subjected to an Indian remake as "Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai". However, one must keep in mind that even though the story-line and concepts have been borrowed from Hollywood movies, the plot has been Indianised to a large extent. This has been done to ensure that the movie caters to the interest of the Indian audience. Multiculturalism is a philosophy that recognizes ethnic diversity within a society and that encourages others to be enlightened by worthwhile contributions to society by those of diverse ethnic backgrounds. Liberal multiculturalism focuses on cultural diversity, celebrating ethnic variety, and teaching tolerance. It assumes the existence of pre-existing cultures, which relate to, and interact with, each other. We can see this aspect of multiculturalism in the way in which Hindi movies borrow from Hollywood. Apart from the story-line, the name, itself, is a copy because Bollywood does not exist as a physical space. This aspect can also be explored when we examine movie-titles, in recent times, which are a combination of English as well as Hindi words. Some examples would be 'Qayamat: City Under Threat', 'Jab We Met', 'Love Aaj Kal', "What's your Rashee".

Hindi cinema has witnessed an exponential growth in recent years, both in terms of geographical reach and commercial potency. This development has led to a marked increase world-wide in critical interest in popular Hindi cinema as a mirror of Indian society and its value systems. This thesis attempts to locate Hindi films in the context of cultural milieu. Hindi films are not merely vehicles of undemanding

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